Tag Archives: Moses

Righteousness and Justice

Meditations on the Psalms

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! (Psalm 4:1 ESV)

David pleads with God to answer his prayer. Before singing about God’s answer, He identifies God’s righteousness, an attribute integral to His eternal character. God is just and righteousness. Not only is God righteous but He is the One who makes the Psalmist righteous. David never says he is righteous in his own right, by his own thinking and deeds, but that God has righteousness placed upon him, covering him. He is the God of my righteousness.

Answer means to hear and respond, to testify verbally by speaking out loud. It is the same word used in Psalm 3. “I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill” (Psalm 3:4 ESV). To callmeans to cry out, to proclaim, emotionally ask loudly, especially for help. So, the Psalmist seeks God in prayer, loudly and forthrightly, imploring God to respond favorably. He knows God hears and that His response is righteous.

God speaks about righteousness in the Psalms. He first declares a separation of the righteous from the wicked. “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV). Those who are righteous are those who do not rebel against Him. They are citizens of His kingdom, who do not follow the ways of the wicked, sinful, scoffers but are identified with the One Blessed Man, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Only God will make a sinful person righteous through Christ.

What is righteousness as an attribute and quality of God? The attributes of God are eternal characteristics of His divine being, which cannot be separated from Him, which works in conjunction with all of the other attributes. Righteousness implies there is in place a moral law, followed to the letter. God’s moral law does not reside outside of Himself but is a fundamental part of His eternal being. His creation, those created in His image and those created with an ability to intellectually and emotionally know His moral standard, follow that law. God’s moral law is a true law, a fixed statute or rule that must be followed. Breaking a moral law, unlike a physical or natural law, is possible, but has eternally damning consequences. Those creatures created with the nature of adhering to God’s moral law bend and break themselves when they violate His eternal standard found in His eternal being.

Righteousness is only one side of the coin. On the other side is the word justice. In the Hebrew and Greek, the word used for righteous also mean justice. Though the theological concepts are related and may be viewed as essentially the same, they have slightly differing applications. God is righteous and just, but He is also true and good and holy. His essential attribute of righteousness and justice cannot be divorced from His equally essential attributes of truth and goodness and holiness. God declares a person righteous when they meet, continue to meet, have always met, the just requirements of His moral law.

Righteousness is the measure God uses to evaluate and judge those who adhere and keep His moral law. Those who live according to the moral law of God are declared righteous. Those who rebel against God break His moral law and are declared unrighteous. Then God judges both, separating one from the other by separating those who rebel from Him.

Moses sings about God after leading the people to the border of the Promised Land. God is their immovable and unbreakable foundation because of His divine immutable attributes. “For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 ESV). God is just and will do nothing which violates His eternal character. So also, Abraham appeals to God’s justice, knowing intimately He will not inflict His wrath on those who have done nothing to deserve punishment.

 “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:23-25 ESV)

It is with confidence the Psalmist declares His trust in the God of my righteousness!  Being identified with God means He is declared by God to have fulfilled all of the requirements of the moral law of God completely and wholly. He is righteous and just because God is righteous and just.

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Torah

Meditations on the Psalms

but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2 ESV)

God has declared one Man righteous because only that one Man has not rebelled against Him. That one Man is Jesus Christ. He is not wicked and ungodly, He does not sin because His essential nature is righteousness, and He does not scoff at God with His words and actions. God now tells us what this one godly Man does which sets Him apart from all others.

Jesus Christ, the godly Man, delights and meditates day and night on the law of God. This delight and meditation gives the godly man the tools needed to fight and combat against the guerrilla tactics of the enemies of God. God’s enemies are His enemies.

The Psalmist uses another set of parallel statements to describe the motivation of the blessed man. He unceasingly delights and meditates on the law of God. Delight means longing and pleasure. Meditate means to speak or groan in musing, devising or plotting a circumstance. The blessed man finds pleasure in contemplating and considering the law of God.

Law is the word torah and includes the entire writing of God’s Scripture, especially the Hebrew Scripture. Torah is the teachings of God for Man. Torah is derived from the word yara which means to throw or cast, as in shooting an arrow, a teaching which hits the mark. So, the torah, the law, is the perfect instruction of God given to lead men to righteousness. We learn the truth about God through the writings of God, which makes the contemplation of Scripture of vital importance in intimately knowing Him.

Man’s sin nature precludes any from accomplishing a complete and thorough understanding of Scripture. This does not mean those who are called by God should cease their efforts to delight in and meditate upon Scripture but should redouble their efforts in their struggle against sin. God gives Scripture so we might know Him and His Son and the work of the Holy Spirit.

God, speaking through Moses, commands the people He brought to the Promised Land to love Him. He then tells them how to love Him. People are created by God for relationship with Him. To do anything less than to love God is to live a truncated and ineffective life.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)

Jesus, the only One who has perfectly fulfilled the eternal intent of God for Man, uses His knowledge of Scripture to counter the wicked intent of the Deceiver to tempt Him to sin. Even the Deceiver knows the Scripture and uses it to further Its deception. But to know God intimately, and the Scripture He has given, is the only means available to counter temptation. Jesus uses truth to counter and defeat the lie.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (see Deuteronomy 8:3)

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (see Psalm 91:11-12)

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (see Deuteronomy 6:16)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (see Deuteronomy 6:13)

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matthew 4:1-11 ESV)

Jesus knew the Scripture because He is the Author of all Scripture. God created all. God sustains all by an act of His will. God governs all, determining the scope and direction of His creation without fault. To question His will is an act of rebellion. God gives purpose to all, demanding from His creation as a natural function of its existence, obedience to Him and His will.

God, The Center

Studies in Genesis 2

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. (Genesis 2:4 ESV)

One of the questions puzzling theologians and lay persons for as long as there has been theologians and lay persons is “why did God give Genesis 1-2:3 in the way He has given?” He has not given a scientific account of creation. There are too many anomalies and not nearly enough precision. Yet, all of the scientific evidence gathered since Man was created in the image of God shows a God who is precise to the atomic level and smaller. God created in such a way, giving Man such a mind, His work is scientifically discoverable and knowable. We want to know.

Nor is Genesis 1-2:3 an historical account. There are too many gaps, not enough detail scattered throughout huge chunks of time. Yet, Man, or at least many men, strive to discover and document history. We cannot know exactly what happened in the past, because we were not there, but we can examine the evidence and draw conclusions of what did happen. Though the future is not knowable knowing history helps make decisions about the future. We want to know.

Some have suggested Moses wrote these words as an answer or rebuttal to Egyptian mythology. But, God does not react to people, nations and cultures. He acts according to His determined personality and will. He does not excuse the misinterpretation of the facts by any individual, conceding and overlooking their idolatrous conclusions. He is God and will not be ignored or overlooked.

Where Genesis 1-2:3 points directly toward God, as does all of creation and Scripture, Genesis 2:4 begins placing Man at the focus of God’s work. Man was created in God’s image for relationship with Him. Man’s purpose is found only in God’s eternal will, exercised first in the temporary space-time universe then carried into eternity. Genesis 2:4 through the rest of Scripture is the description of what God has done and is doing to strengthen Man’s purpose and relationship with Him. Yet, Scripture is a history of Man’s struggle to do and be something other than God’s declared intention.

We want to know exactly what happened in Genesis 1-2:3 not because we are curious but so we can have control. Nowhere in Scripture does God cede His control over creation, all creation, to a creature. Our understanding of God begins, not with ourselves but with Him who created us in His image. Our theology must never be anthropocentric but theopocentric.

Jesus Christ, completely God and completely a Servant born into humanity in the likeness of Man, is the Creator of the universe and the Author of Scripture. Though Moses wrote the first five books of Scripture, Jesus is the Author. We do not need to know Moses’ reason for writing but God’s intent. We must take care to not add to what He has written our own assumptions and desires.

Those compelled to study Scripture, to write and teach Scripture, carry a fear. Fear of God, in the true sense of fearing God. Fear of unrighteousness, that what is learned, written about and taught may lead astray. Fear of self and the tendency to point to self and not Jesus, God who created all and authored Scripture. Such fear does not incapacitate but does slow down and allow God the authority to direct and lead. As we continue studying Genesis my God direct and lead our thoughts and learning always to His Son.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1 ESV)

Peter and Stephen

Those who have the pure salt of righteousness and shine God’s truth through their persons in a world darkened by sin will naturally face persecution. Creatures of darkness cannot abide the light for they fear exposure and run away from anything touched by light. But the light of truth cannot be hidden any more than it can be extinguished, especially when the source of light is God Himself, who is truth. Nor will the salt of righteousness lose its saltiness from those abandoned to God simply because of the hatred of the world.

Stephen was a Grecian Jew probably born outside of Judea or Galilee. He was one of the Diaspora, in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover or Pentecost and staying when he heard either Jesus teach or one of the Apostles, Peter maybe, or John. This is all speculation. We know little about Stephen other than his name, that he was chosen with six others to help serve the growing church, and that he was a godly man filled with the Holy Spirit. We also know he had a good grasp of Israel’s history and was unafraid of the Jewish leadership. We know he was persecuted and murdered because of his stance for Jesus and the gospel. We know he was falsely accused and offered a defense using his accusers own history. His story is in Acts 7.

Israel’s history condemns them for it is their history which God used to point to His Son. Using normal sinful thinking these Jews pluck out the good things from their history ignoring the sinful behavior of their ancestors. Jesus, Peter, and Stephen would not allow them this luxury. They, just like their fathers, were prone to idolatry.

Peter, an untrained teacher, also used Israel’s history to point to Jesus, His death and resurrection. None of those who confronted Peter could disprove his words. They could not produce Jesus’ body. Nor could they stand against Peter’s words before the people. Many entered God’s kingdom because of Peter’s words and miracles.

Steven did the same thing. “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you’” [Acts 7:2-3, ESV].

Peter used the words of Moses to prick the consciences of his hearers, words they knew well.

Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.  And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness. [Acts 3:22 ESV]

Stephen used the same illustration from Scripture. “This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us” [Acts 7:37-38, ESV].

Peter brought his teaching to the place where he accused the Jews of killing God’s Righteous One. Stephen did the same. Peter saw thousands come to God through the gospel and felt the lashes of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing in his sharing in the suffering of Christ. Some came into the kingdom from Stephen’s teaching while he lived. He felt the stones of their hatred toward God while asking God to forgive them. How many has God made righteous through the light of Stephen?  We do not know. It does not matter to us. What matters is we, too, are willing to shine light in a world dedicated to darkness and hatred for God.

Those who hate God think they can extinguish a person’ s light and nullify their righteousness through persecution and intimidation or by killing them. Jesus was raised from the dead. The hatred of the world is evidence of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven’s righteous standing before God.

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” [Acts 4:19-20, ESV]

“Rest in Peace”

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.  And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. [Luke 12:4-9 ESV]

If there is anything consistent in the makeup of man it is the reality of sin and consequent physical death. In our rebellion we excuse and ignore sin. We cannot ignore or avoid death. We can refuse to acknowledge God all of our physical lives until we come before Him.

Jesus told His disciples of His impending death at the hands of His enemies in Jerusalem.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’”[Matthew 16:21-22 ESV]

I think Peter spoke for the group. He pulled Jesus aside and rebuked Him, suggesting Jesus was not going to die as He described. While we could debate Peter’s motivations his refusal to accept the impending death of a loved one is more prominent. He could not imagine the man before him, robust, quick witted, strong, facing death. Jesus bested the Pharisees. He would continue to best them. There is no way Jesus would be murdered by anyone.

Jesus rebuked the liar who inspired Peter to believe the lie. “Get behind me Satan” [Matthew 16:23 ESV]. Wishful thinking is just that. It has no foundation in truth and therefore no substance.

Christians are probably more afraid of the process of dying than of actual death. If we knew when we were going to die would we not get our house in order? Would we tremble and quake because we do not know Him or face death with peace because we do know Him. Moses was told he would not enter the Promised Land so he prepared the people to follow God after his death. Then was gathered to his people atop a mountain overlooking the land he could not enter. There is no indication he feared dying.

Often it is not the one dying who is afraid but those around facing the reality of losing a loved who are the most distressed. Leaving loved ones, through death, might bring resignation and acceptance of one’s circumstance. Trapped by the world, those staying want to build a false peace to placate their emotional upheaval.

“Rest in peace” is an accepted euphemism stuffed with wishful thinking. Where there is no peace with God there can be no peace in death. Where there is no fear of God there is no desire to be right before Him. Death becomes a purposefully ignored unknown filled with superstitious possibilities based upon fantasy.

Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem where He would face a violent death at the hands of professional executioners. He knew this and He was at peace. He asked God to take away the cup, but submitted Himself to His Father, for He knew the peace He had could not be taken, even by death. How we face death, our own and the death of a loved one, is a test. Do we know we have peace with God? Do we know the person dying has peace with God? Do we live for God?

Death could not hold Jesus. He was raised from the dead. Those who are His need have no fear of death. Those who are not His should absolutely fear death.

Giving to God

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [Matthew 5:8 ESV]

God tests the hearts of men, not because He needs to know what is in the heart. We need to know the thinking of our hearts. Testing is a good thing for those willing to see themselves through God’s eyes, measure themselves by His standard, acknowledge Him as the only Authority and Judge.

When God called His people out of Egypt He told them to plunder the Egyptians. Hundreds of years earlier God told Abraham, without naming Egypt, what would happen. “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions” [Genesis 15:13-14 ESV].

When God sent Moses to bring His people out of Egypt God instructed His nation what to do as they were leaving.  “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians” [Exodus 3:21-22 ESV]. To “plunder” is to gather the “spoil” from the battlefield or a country and people after a military defeat.

He gave them plunder for several reasons. First, as payment for years of slave labor. Secondly, when it was time to construct the tent of meeting they would have the necessary materials and would give freely. Finally, when they went into the Promised Land and followed His instruction to keep nothing for themselves they would have plenty and not covet what was devoted to God.

Between the plundering of Egypt as they left their enslavement for freedom, and the giving of an abundant offering for the tent of meeting, God tested His people so they would see the thinking of their hearts. While Moses was up on the Mountain receiving the commands of God the people rebelled and made an idol, attributing to the idol the work of God. Aaron listened to them and instructed them to bring their golden earrings.

So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”

So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” [Exodus 32:2-4 ESV]

People wore gold earrings for decoration, insurance and a sign of devotion to a idol. Should they die in the open and were found by a stranger, the stranger would bury them and take the gold earring as payment. Or they could, when they died, bribe their way into the god’s presence. Most likely they were simply vain. Whatever is true the gold in their ears was the only thing of value they carried from Egypt which belonged to them. God gave them everything else of value they possessed. It was “their” property used to construct and idol. It was “God’s” property used to construct the tent of meeting, a place to offer worship to God.

God’s test of the heart is what I see is mine versus what I know is His. If I think it is mine, that I earned it and possess it, then it becomes an idol. This “thinking of the heart” focuses upon me, separating me from my true place as God’s servant. It is an issue of control. When Adam fell after rebelling against God, the image of God in him was corrupted, not excised. Part of that image is “dominion.” We fight God for control refusing to give Him what we think belongs to us. God tests the purity of the heart through the act of giving.

Giving Respect

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”

When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. [Exodus 3:1-6 ESV]

We cannot stand before God as we are. Only those who are pure have the privilege of being in God’s presence. Sin made us impure, filling the thinking of our hearts with the corruption of evil desires against God and toward others. However, on occasion in Scripture God, the Son, appeared to some treating them as pure. These appearances of the preincarnate Christ are called theophanies.

God, the Son, first appeared to Moses in a burning bush. Moses, probably 80 years old at the time, Had been a shepherd for 40 years and saw everything the desert offered. When he saw something unusual, a bush on fire but not burning, he investigated.

From the bush God spoke to Moses, saying his name twice. Moses answered, not knowing with whom he was speaking. “Here I am.” This was the proper way to answer an authority summoning a servant. “I am here, at your disposal.” When God called, Moses answered with a submissive voice, a posture of respect before God.

God declared the ground upon which Moses standing holy. There is no indication the ground was forever holy. Wherever God is, is holy. God met Moses on Mount “Horeb” which means a “desolate wasteland.” From then on Moses identified it as the Mountain of God. Moses removed his sandals, an act of obedience and great respect. God demands respect and has the authority to expect both obedience and respect from those who belong to Him.

Responding respectfully to God’s summons is evidence of training but not purity of the thinking of the heart. Obedience with selfless motives shows the heart God is preparing for eternity.

God identified Himself and Moses responded without being told what to do. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” What was Moses’ response? “And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” Standing in the presence of Holy God exposed his true sinful self. Before God makes anyone pure they must first acknowledge their sinfulness and recognize the consequences of their sin. Then they must relinquish control of themselves to the God they serve.  God will use whom He will.

In the exchange which follows God never asked Moses to do His will. Always, even when Moses made excuses, God commanded him to go and speak. Obedience is expected.

Training has its place. Responding correctly and respectfully is proper and necessary. True humility before God reveals the changing thoughts of the heart of the one chosen by God. Do not mistake how God uses those who are His. Few are given the challenge of doing something spectacular for God. Mostly, it is obedience in the daily and mundane which brings the most glory to Him. For the daily and mundane reveal the true person. We are called to uninterrupted obedience to His commands and continual respect for His Person.